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When the boughs break

YVONNE SWANSON
Published April 17, 2005

When hurricanes blow in, some trees hold their own while others topple. Those that weather the storm, however, can be vulnerable to insects and diseases that enter through damaged limbs. A tree's age, size and health are important factors in determining whether it will survive a violent storm. One thing to remember: Not all trees are created equal.

Researchers at the University of Florida studied the effect on about 5,000 trees after hurricanes Erin (with 85-mph sustained winds) and Opal (125-mph winds) hit the Florida Panhandle in 1995. They concluded that two of the most hurricane-resistant trees are the live oak (Quercus virginiana ) and the sabal palm (Sabal palmetto ). The only sabal palm that fell in both hurricanes was knocked over by another falling tree. (No wonder the sabal, also called cabbage palm, is Florida's state tree.)

The big loser? The shallow-rooted sand pine (Pinus clausa ), which researchers urge homeowners not to plant near their homes. Use the data below to assess the trees in your yard and as a helpful guide to tree selection in the future.

MOST WIND-RESISTANT

--Dogwood (Cornus florida )

--Live oak (Quercus virginiana )

--Sabal palm (Sabal palmetto )

--Sand live oak (Quercus geminata )

--Southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora )

LESS WIND-RESISTANT

--Laurel oak (Quercus laurifolia )

--Longleaf pine (Pinus palustris )

--Pecan (Carya illinoensis )

--Red maple (Acer rubrum )

--Silver maple (Quercus saccharinum )

--Slash pine (Pinus elliottii var. elliottii )

--Southern red cedar (Juniperus silicicola )

--Sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua )

--Turkey oak (Quercus laevis )

LEAST WIND-RESISTANT:

--Carolina laurelcherry (Prunus caroliniana )

--Sand pine (Pinus clausa )

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